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Requested Recipe:

Berlandieri Grape Wine


"I just found some really sweet, teeny tiny, wild cluster grapes. My uncle
said they are Winter Grapes. Do you have a recipe?"
Doug Horn, Llano, Texas




BERLANDIERI GRAPES


It is very difficult to identify any grape without seeing it on the vine and tasting it, but I think I can come close on this one. At least four North American native grapes share the name "winter grape" -- Vitis berlandieri, V. bicolor, V. cordifolia (properly, V. vulpina), and V. cinerea. V. cordifolia/vulpina rightfully owns the name. But the point is that the name hints at a very late ripening for all four species. I will rule out V. bicolor for many reasons I need not mention. V. cordifolia/vulpina ripens from August through October, but usually does not sweeten untl after a good frost -- thus it is called the sour winter grape. V. cinerea, the sweet winter grape, ripens from August through November, but prefers sandy and alluvial soils, not the limestone of Llano. This leaves me to believe your grape is Vitis berlandieri, also known vernacularly as the Fall Grape, Winter Grape, Little Mountain Grape, Spanish Grape, and Uņa Cimarrona.

Vitis berlandieri

V. berlandieri, with 6-inch clusters, in San Antonio, Texas

This grape ripens in August and September south of the Rio Grande and in October and November in Central Texas. It is acidic until it ripes and then is sweet and quite delicious, but too small for convenient eating and not quite sweet enough to make a decent wine without a little sugar being added. It is small (1/5 to 1/3 inch) with 30 to 70 per cluster. The clusters are loose and open, the pedicels (stems) long. The skin is thin, the pulp juicy when ripe, usually with one or two seeds of a coffee color. Ripe berries retain enough acid to make a balanced wine. Their small size makes crushing difficult, so pectic enzyme will help extract the juice. Destemming by hand takes a while, but is necessary.


Berlandieri Grape Wine


Destem and crush the grapes and place in nylon straining bag. Tie bag closed and place in primary. Squeeze bag to extract enough juice to float a hydrometer in its test jar. Calculate sugar required to raise specific gravity to 1,088. Add sugar and stir well to dissolve it completely. Add finely crushed Campden tablet and stir in well. Cover primary with sanitized muslin and set aside 10 hours. Add pectic enzyme and stir well. Recover cprimary and set aside additional 10 hours. Add activated yeast, recover primary, and squeeze bag twice daily until active fermentation dies down (5-7 days). Remove nylon straining bag and drain, then press to extract all juice. Transfer juice to secondary, top up if required and fit airlock. Ferment 30 days, rack into clean secondary, top up, and refit airlock. Rack again after additional 30 days and stabilize wine. Sweeten to taste if desired and set aside 30 days, or forego sweetening, set aside 10-14 days, and rack into bottles. Age three to six months. [Author's own recipe]


My sincerest thanks to Doug Horn of Llana, Texas for requesting this recipe.


This page was updated November 14th, 2003

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